Acorns and Stash are popular investment apps aimed at beginners.
They both offer easy, automated ways to invest small amounts of money into a taxable brokerage account. They also give users access to other financial services, like a bank account and individual retirement accounts (IRAs).
But these micro-investing rivals differ in a few key ways. Specifically, investing with Acorns is completely automated while Stash can offer a more DIY, hands-on experience.
In this Stash vs. Acorns review, we’ll give you all the details you need to make the right choice.
Stash vs. Acorns Summary
Stash and Acorns both make investing accessible to everyday users — even if you don’t have any experience or much money to invest.
However, these apps differ in a few key ways.
Stash vs. Acorns: How Do They Compare?
|Account minimum balance||$0 to open, $5 to invest||$0 to open, $5 to invest|
|Monthly fees||$1 to $9 a month||$3 to $5 a month|
|Round-ups and recurring transfers?||Yes||Yes|
|Traditional IRA offered||Yes||Yes|
|Roth IRA offered||Yes||Yes|
|SEP IRA offered||Yes||No|
|Custodial accounts for minors||Multiple||Two|
|Access to life insurance||Yes||No|
|Human advisor option?||No||No|
|Can you pick your own investments?||Yes||No|
|Socially responsible investing?||ETFs available||Automated ESG portfolios|
What to Know About Stash
Stash is also a micro-investing app with a user-friendly interface and $0 account minimums.
But unlike Acorns, Stash gives you the option to handpick your own stocks and exchange traded funds.
Stash can create a diversified portfolio for you based on your financial goals and risk tolerance, the way Acorns does.
Or, you can take a more DIY approach and buy fractional shares of more than 3,000 individual stocks and ETFs.
Prior to March 2021, Stash only allowed users to buy their own investments and manage them on their own. That changed after the company launched Smart Portfolio, its robo-advisor option, which chooses investments based on your profile and rebalances them periodically in response to market changes.
You can make automatic contributions to your Stash personal investment account via spare change rounds-up and Set Schedule, a recurring transfer feature.
Stash offers other financial products with its $3 and $9 per month accounts, including access to IRAs and UTMA/UGMA accounts for children.
Stash has a unique feature called Stock-Back® rewards, which lets you earn stock rewards when you shop with your Stash Visa debit card.
Like Acorns, Stash charges a flat monthly fee for its services.
Stash Subscription Prices
Stash Beginner: $1 per month
- You get access to a personal portfolio investment account, a Stash online banking account and a debit card.
Stash Growth: $3 per month
- If you want access to an IRA, or the Smart Portfolio automated investing feature, you’ll pay $3 a month for a Stash Growth plan.
Stash+: $9 per month
- You get access to two UTMA/UGMA investment accounts for children and a metal debit card that earns double Stock-Back® rewards. Stash+ users also get $10,000 worth of life insurance from Avibra.
Stash Pros and Cons
Stash offers an easy way to invest but it’s important to weigh all the features.
- No minimum balance required and you can start investing with just $5.
- The option to handpick your own stocks, bonds and ETFs.
- Stash offers thematic investing that groups similar assets together so you can make investment choices based on your interests or beliefs.
- Easy-to-navigate app you can access on your desktop or mobile app.
- Robo-investor portfolio option.
- Auto-Stash, which helps you automatically invest via round-ups and recurring transfers.
- Access to other financial services, including a checking account, Visa debit card and custodial accounts for kids.
- Stash fees range from $1 to $9 per month, which can be pricey if you maintain a small portfolio balance.
- No tax loss harvesting strategy.
- The app doesn’t offer access to human advisors or personalized financial advice.
- Custodial accounts for children are only available with Stash+, the $9 option. (Acorns offers custodial accounts with its $5 plan.)
What to Know About Acorns
Acorns became one of the first automated investment apps to hit the market back in 2014.
There’s no minimum amount to open an account and you need just $5 to start investing.
Acorns helps you automate investing and save money in a few different ways, including its hallmark round-up feature.
Round-ups put your spare change into the stock market when you make purchases with a linked card. Acorns will round your purchases to the nearest dollar, then sweep the change into your investment account once it hits $5 or more.
You can also automate investing by setting up recurring transfers from your bank account to your Acorns app on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
These features help set your finances to autopilot. We love that convenience.
However, you can’t pick your own stocks, bonds or ETFs with an Acorns account. (Nope, you can’t buy shares of Tesla or GameStop.)
Instead, Acorns creates a diversified investment portfolio for you.
This lack of customization might be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how comfortable you are making your own investment choices.
If you’re looking for a truly simplified set-it-and-forget-it approach, it’s hard to go wrong with Acorns.
The app also offers banking products including a debit account, educational resources, custodial accounts for kids and automated retirement account options.
Acorns comes with a unique feature called Acorns Earn, which gives you investment bonuses and rewards when you shop with participating merchants.
Acorns charges a flat monthly fee for its services.
Acorns Subscription Prices
Acorns Personal: $3 per month
- You get access to a taxable brokerage account, an IRA and a digital bank account.
Acorns Family: $5 per month
- In addition to all the Personal account features, the Family account gives you access to UTMA/UGMA investment accounts for children.
Acorns Pros and Cons
- No account minimums and you can start investing with just $5.
- Easy-to-navigate interface you can access online or via mobile app.
- Educational tools and resources.
- Diversified portfolios with risk-appropriate, low-cost investment options.
- Socially responsible investing portfolio available.
- Round-ups to the nearest dollar and recurring transfers from a linked debit or credit card.
- Access to other financial services, including a checking account.
- You can’t handpick individual investments inside your portfolio. Instead, Acorns curates your portfolio for you.
- Acorns’ monthly management fees can be high for accounts with low balances.
- No tax loss harvesting feature.
- No access to human advisors or personalized retirement advice.
Features Acorns and Stash Both Share
Acorns and Stash share more similarities than differences. They both simplify investing, and they both charge flat monthly fees for their services.
Here are other features both apps share:
- You can invest very small sums of money automatically via round-ups and recurring transfers.
- Mobile app and website versions.
- Available on the Apple App Store or Google Play.
- Educational tools and personal finance resources.
- An automated portfolio feature.
- Fractional share investing.
- Automatic dividend reinvestments.
- No account minimums and $5 to start investing.
- UTMA/UGMA accounts for children.
- Traditional or Roth IRA option.
- Bank accounts.
- Access to a debit card.
- No personalized investment advice or tax loss harvesting.
Features Unique to Acorns
Here are the features you’ll only find on Acorns.
- Acorns Earn, which gives you bonus investments when you shop with select brands.
- Access to a SEP IRA.
- Unlimited custodial accounts for minors.
- Automated socially responsible investing portfolio.
Features Unique to Stash
Here’s how Stash differs from Acorns.
- You can pick and choose your own stocks, bonds and ETFs.
- Curated Collections group similar stocks according to industry and sector.
- Stash renames ETFs with descriptive, catchy titles that make it easy for new investors to understand what’s inside.
- Stash Stock-Back® rewards let you earn stock investments when you shop.
- Ability to invest in select marijuana stocks and cannabis ETFs.
- $10,000 worth of life insurance coverage (available to Stash+ users).
Stash vs. Acorns: How Your Money Gets Invested
Both Acorns and Stash take a long view approach to investing. They want you to keep your money in the market long-term, and therefore discourage or even bar you from day trading.
Acorns and Stash both use fractional share purchases, which allows you to buy pieces of an asset even if you don’t have enough money to purchase an entire share.
Remember, investing involves risk. Even though you’re only investing small amounts of money in these apps, there’s always a chance you could lose money in the stock market.
When you sign up for Acorns, you’ll complete a brief questionnaire to determine your age, income, risk tolerance and goals.
From there, Acorns uses computer software and algorithms to select a pre-made portfolio for you.
Portfolio options include:
- Moderately conservative.
- Moderately aggressive.
These portfolios are comprised of exchange traded funds (ETFs), which bundle numerous stocks or bonds into a single fund. Aggressive portfolios are mostly stock ETFs while conservative portfolios are mostly bond ETFs.
You can choose a different portfolio if you disagree with the Acorns algorithm, but you can’t pick your own individual stocks and ETFs.
For environmentally-conscious investors, Acorns offers an ESG (environmental, social and governance) portfolio, which allows you to invest in businesses that prioritize sustainability.
The Acorns app also offers a tax-advantaged retirement account and UTMA/UGMA accounts for minors.
Stash lets you decide how hands-on you want to be with your portfolio.
All Stash users can pick and choose from more than 3,000 stocks, bonds and ETFs.
Like Acorns, Stash will prompt you to complete a brief questionnaire to assess your age, income, risk tolerance and goals.
From there, the app gives you a list of investment options to choose from, including Curated Collections, which bundle assets from similar industries like health care and technology.
Smart Portfolio, Stash’s robo-advisor option, is available with Stash Growth and Stash+.
Similar to Acorns, Smart Portfolios take the guesswork out of investing by putting your money into a predetermined diversified portfolio.
Automated portfolios are made up of a handful of ETFs that give you exposure to the biggest companies around the globe.
Smart Portfolios will also reinvest your dividends and periodically rebalance your portfolio if it drifts 5% away from its target asset allocation.
Like Acorns, you can open a taxable brokerage account, IRA and UTMA/UGMA accounts on Stash.
Cost and Fees
Both Stash and Acorns offer subscriptions with flat monthly fees.
Stash Beginner is the most affordable option at just $1 a month. (Acorns used to offer a $1 option, called Acorns Lite, but phased this plan out in September 2021.)
If you’re looking for the cheapest investment account (and don’t need an automated portfolio), Stash beats Acorns.
Stash also offers access to a debit account for $1 a month, making it more economical than Acorns if these features are important to you.
However, Stash and Acorns both charge the same amount ($3 per month) to access a fully automated portfolio and retirement accounts.
Acorns is a better deal if you want to open a custodial account for a child.
Acorns Family lets you create multiple custodial UTMA/UGMA accounts for $5 a month. At $9 per month, Stash+ costs nearly twice as much and only lets you access two of these accounts.
Investment apps have to make money somehow, but the flat monthly management fees Stash and Acorns charge can eat into your returns, especially if you have a low account balance.
Many other robo-advisors charge a management fee as a percentage of your portfolio balance. For example, Betterment and Wealthfront charge a 0.25% annual fee, which is much more affordable for small accounts.
If you had $1,000 in a Betterment personal investment account, you’d pay just $2.50 a year in fees. Compare that to at least $12 a year with Stash and at least $36 a year with Acorns.
Acorns vs. Stash: Which Is Right For You?
Stash and Acorns both help you take baby steps toward your financial goals.
Acorns takes a fully automated approach that doesn’t let users select their own stocks and ETFs, while Stash gives you the option to create your own investment portfolio or let a computer do it for you.
Acorns is a better fit if you prefer a simplified, set-it-and-forget experience. It’s also a good choice if you’re looking for a SEP IRA or multiple custodial accounts for children.
Stash works better if you want control over the investments in your personal portfolio, or you’re looking to invest in specific stocks.
Stash also offers a less expensive debit card and banking options.
The “best” option for you really depends on what you want out of an investment app.
Either way, Acorns and Stash both provide safe and simple platforms ideal for new investors who want to get their money in the stock market.
The most important part of investing is getting started, so it’s hard to go wrong with either app.
Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.
The Penny Hoarder is a paid Affiliate/ partner of Stash. Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser.
*Offer is subject to Promotion Terms and Conditions To be eligible to participate in this Promotion and receive the bonus, you must successfully open an individual brokerage account in good standing, link a funding account to your Invest account AND deposit $5.00 into your Invest account.
Bank Account Services provided by Green Dot Bank, Member FDIC. Account opening of the bank account is subject to Green Dot Bank approval. Investment products and services provided by Stash Investments LLC, not Green Dot Bank, and are Not FDIC Insured, Not Bank Guaranteed, and May Lose Value.
Stock-Back® rewards is not sponsored or endorsed by Green Dot Bank, Green Dot Corporation, Visa U.S.A. or any of their respective affiliates, and none of the forgoing has any responsibility to fulfill any stock rewards earned through this program.
For additional disclosures, click here.